O’Connell, Heckert take GT, GTS poles at Laguna Seca
Johnny O’Connell took his first step toward trying to retain his Pirelli World Challenge crown with pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Cadillac Racing produced a 1-3 in qualifying – a particularly commendable achievement given the tightness of a grid that saw the top nine drivers covered by less than half a second for the 19th and final race of the GT season
O’Connell lapped the 2.238-mile course in 1min23.960sec to put the #3 ATS-V.R just 0.024sec clear of another title contender, Patrick Long in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911, who in turn was just 0.034sec ahead of Michael Cooper’s Cadillac. Like teammate O’Connell, Cooper can win the title but needs extraordinary bad luck to befall both points leader Alvaro Parente and also Long. And then he has to beat the other Caddy, too…
Parente was only third fastest of the McLarens in qualifying, sandwiched between KPAX Racing teammates Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson, but with all three being usurped by the #99 Gainsco Stallings ‘Red Dragon’ 650S of Jon Fogarty. The former Formula Atlantic and Grand-Am ace pushed Cindric aside by a mere 0.003sec to take fourth overall.
Behind this quartet of McLarens, Gunnar Jeannette claimed eighth in the Porsche, ahead of Bryan Heitkotter’s Nissan GT-R.
In GTA, Martin Fuentes took class pole in the Ferrari 458 Italia, ahead of Michael Schein’s Porsche 911.
In GT Cup, Corey Fergus had a 0.3sec edge over Sloan Urry to grab top spot.
For tomorrow afternoon’s second GTS race of the weekend, Scott Heckert put the #54 SIN R1 on pole with a 1min30.666 lap, shading Parker Chase’s Ginetta by just 0.015sec, with Andrew Aquilante wheeling the Phoenix Ford Mustang BOSS 302 to an impressive 1min30.703sec to nail third place on his seventh and final flying lap.
Harry Gottsacker made it two Ginettas in the first two rows, with Brett Sandberg finishing the session as top KTM XBow driver.
Lawson Aschenbach muscled the Blackdog Speedshop Chevrolet Camaro into sixth place, with Nate Stacy taking seventh in the Roush Mustang BOSS despite crashing early. Top Aston Martin Vantages were those of Aristotle Balogh and Max Riddle in eighth and 10th, split by Anthony Mantella’s KTM XBow.
O’Connell: “We’ll need some luck” to win fifth PWC title
Barkey scores first GTS win, Sandberg takes the title